Britain has formally identified Iran as being behind drone and missile strikes on Saudi Arabian oil fields, raising the chance of the UK joining military efforts in the Middle East.
Boris Johnson says the UK government is attributing responsibility to the regime in Tehran “with a very high degree of probability”.
Flying to New York for the UN General Assembly, the prime minister said he wanted to “de-escalate tensions” but refused to rule out taking part in any coordinated military action if Britain is asked to do so.
The UK has followed the United States and Saudi Arabia in pointing the finger of blame at Iran, rather than accepting the claims of responsibility by Houthi rebels for the attacks a week ago – the Iranians have denied any involvement.
Drone and cruise missile strikes crippled the Khurais oil field and Abqaiq oil processing facility in eastern Saudi Arabia, a key part of the country’s oil production infrastructure.
Mike Pompey, the US Secretary of State, has called the attacks an “act of war”.
Mr Johnson has made it clear that he was prepared to consider all requests for assistance as he prepares to meet both President Donald Trump and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran in the sidelines of the UN meeting.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Johnson said: “Everyone wants to do what they can to bring the world together in response to what happened in Saudi Arabia in our management of Iran.
“The UK is attributing responsibility with a very high degree of probability to Iran for the Aramco attacks. We think it is very likely that Iran was indeed responsible. Using both UAVs, both drones and cruise missiles. The difficulty is how do we organise a global response – what is the way forward?
“We will be working with our American friends and our European friends to construct a response that tries to de-escalate tensions in the Gulf region.”
Britain is understood to have concluded that the Houthis claim it is responsible is implausible, based on imagery which sources said show remnants of Iranian-made missiles that have a range and sophistication inconsistent with the Houthis.
This level of sophistication, Britain believes, points to Iranian involvement which the British government has conclude is implausible without authorisation by the Iranian government
Asked whether he would rule out military action and stick with the Iran nuclear deal, Mr Johnson replied: “Well – on what kind of action we could take, you’ll have seen the Americans are proposing to do more to help to defend Saudi Arabia.
“We will be following that closely and clearly if we are asked by the Americans or Saudis to have a role, we will consider in what way we can be useful.”
Pressed on whether this could mean Britain taking part in military action, he replied: “We will consider all (options) if asked and depending on what exact plan.”
Mr Johnson said he would be raising the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British Iranian jailed national when he meets with President Rouhani.
“On Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other very sad dual national consular cases held in Tehran, as you can imagine in the course of my talks with President Rouhani which I will also be having – in my talks with President Rouhani I will not only be discussing Iran’s actions in the region but the need to release not just Nazanin but others, and I will argue they are being illegally held.”
Lesbian kiss row: Wedding-planning site hits out at Hallmark for pulling adverts | Ents & Arts News
A wedding planning website has refused to advertise on the Hallmark Channel again after it scrapped commercials featuring two brides kissing at the altar.
The network removed the adverts following a complaint by One Million Moms – a conservative group linked with the American Family Association.
Zola had submitted six adverts, four of which featured a lesbian couple.
After Hallmark axed those, but not the two featuring only opposite-sex couples, Zola pulled its remaining adverts.
“The only difference between the commercials that were flagged and the ones that were approved was that the commercials that did not meet Hallmark’s standards included a lesbian couple kissing,” said Mike Chi, Zola’s chief marketing officer.
“All kisses, couples and marriages are equal celebrations of love and we will no longer be advertising on Hallmark,” he said.
The decision was also met with anger by a number of US celebrities.
Ellen DeGeneres asked Hallmark: “Isn’t it almost 2020? What are you thinking? Please explain. We’re all ears.”
Actress Sandra Bernhard, who played one of the first openly bisexual characters on network TV in Roseanne also criticised Hallmark’s decision.
“All the groovy gay ladies i know won’t be watching your Christmas schlock,” she wrote on Twitter, addressing Hallmark.
“They’ll be out celebrating with their “families”, wives, children, friends on & on & getting married in chic ensembles. Didn’t you all get the memo? Family is all inclusive.”
In one of the adverts for Zola, two brides stand at the altar and discuss whether their wedding would go more smoothly if they had used a planning site before sharing a kiss.
Molly Biwer, senior vice president for public affairs and communications at Hallmark, said: “The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value.
“The Hallmark brand is never going to be divisive. We don’t want to generate controversy, we’ve tried very hard to stay out of it… we just felt it was in the best interest of the brand to pull them and not continue to generate controversy.”
Ms Biwer said One Million Moms had complained about the adverts to Bill Abbott, CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, Hallmark’s parent company.
A post on the group’s website said that Mr Abbott “reported the advertisement aired in error”.
The group also wrote: “The call to our office gave us the opportunity to confirm the Hallmark Channel will continue to be a safe and family-friendly network.”
White Island volcano death toll rises to 16 as victim dies in Australia hospital | World News
The death toll from the volcanic eruption on White Island has reached 16 after another victim died in hospital in Australia.
At least 19 other people remain in hospital following Monday’s eruption on the New Zealand island, also known as Whakaari.
It comes as recovery teams failed in their latest efforts to locate two remaining bodies.
Authorities said eight police search and rescue staff were deployed for 75 minutes to an area where reports suggested one body could be.
“I can say we have found no further bodies in that area,” Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Clement told reporters.
On Friday, six bodies were successfully retrieved from the island by a New Zealand military team and taken to the mainland for disaster victim identification.
Police have said they remained committed to recovering the two bodies and that police and military divers were continuing to scour the waters around the island.
“Everyone went out there absolutely desperate to find bodies and return them to loved ones,” Mr Clement said.
The volcano, a popular destination for day-trippers, erupted on Monday, spewing ash, steam and gases over the island.
Among the 47 people on the island at the time were Australian, US, German, Chinese, British and Malaysian tourists.
Police have begun formally releasing the names and nationalities of those killed, with 21-year-old Australian Krystal Browitt the first person identified.
On Sunday, police also released the names of New Zealander Tipene Maangi and Australians Zoe Hosking, Gavin Dallow and Anthony Langford.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called on New Zealanders to observe a minute’s silence in memory of victims of the disaster at 2.11pm on Monday – exactly one week on from the eruption.
Ms Ardern and her cabinet will pause in silence during their regular meeting at parliament in Wellington.
“Wherever you are in New Zealand or around the world, this is a moment we can stand alongside those who have lost loved ones in this extraordinary tragedy,” she said.
“Together we can express our sorrow for those who have died and been hurt and our support for their grieving families and friends.”
Hertha Berlin U16 team walks off pitch after players ‘racially abused’ by opponents | World News
Hertha Berlin’s under-16 team has walked off the pitch during a game after its players were allegedly racially abused by opposition players.
The German club’s officials informed the referee of the alleged abuse and decided to stop playing in the 68th minute while leading 2-0 against regional rivals Auerbach.
The Bundesliga club says in a statement on its website that it took the decision “because we as Hertha BSC condemn racism and discrimination in every form”.
On Twitter, the club said: “There are times when football doesn’t come first. Racism has no place in our society.”
Executive board member Paul Keuter called it “the only correct decision, not to continue with the game”.
Hertha under-23 player Jessic Ngankam said he was targeted with monkey chants and called an “ape” by an opposing player during his side’s fourth division game against Lokomotive Leipzig on 6 December.
“Insults are unfortunately an everyday occurrence in football, and I can put up with them. But racist abuse is a no-go,” the 19-year-old said.
Both Hertha and Lokomotive condemned the alleged abuse.
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